Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John Roy Brokenshire Letters, 1917

Finding aid created by
Kay Miller and Meg Hixon, December 2011

Summary Information
Title: John Roy Brokenshire letters
Creator: Dow, Lillian, b. 1896
Inclusive dates: 1917
Extent: 9 items
This collection consists of nine letters written by United States Navy sailor John Roy Brokenshire to a friend, Lillian Dow of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Though hampered by censorship, of which he frequently complained, Brokenshire discussed his life onboard the USS Louisiana during World War I.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

2000. M-4115.2.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

John Roy Brokenshire Letters, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically.


John Roy Brokenshire, known as "Roy," was born in Cook County, Illinois, on October 15, 1894, the son of John J. Brokenshire and Mary Clark. Roy's four younger brothers, Herbert, Robert, Gordon, and Douglas, all served in the United States Navy. Roy Brokenshire attended the University of Michigan, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta, and enlisted in the navy before the country's official entry into World War I. He served onboard the USS Louisiana after being transferred from the Boston Navy Yard in June 1917, and eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant. He died on September 28, 1940.

Lillian Catherine Dow was born to Robert and Marion T. Dow of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on February 1, 1896.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of 9 letters written by United States Navy sailor John Roy Brokenshire ("Roy") to a friend, Lillian Dow of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In his first letter, dated June 7, 1917, Brokenshire described his arrival in Norfolk, Virginia, where he joined the crew of the USS Louisiana for duty in the Atlantic Ocean. He wrote about his journey from the Boston Navy Yard and gave his impressions of Norfolk, including comments on the weather and on the ships assembled there. He frequently shared his disdain for censorship, and suggested that he and Lillian utilize a code to evade such efforts, though no letters appear to have such a code. Brokenshire also wrote about life in the navy, including his experiences with laundry, referring to himself as " some washerwoman" (July 1, 1917). He felt that the war would continue well beyond the summer of 1917 (July 9, 1917) and discussed his opinions about an essay from the September 1917 issue of American Magazine, "The War Inside Myself," regarding the mindset of soldiers.

Subject Terms

    • Louisiana (Battleship)
    • Norfolk Navy Yard (U.S.)
    • Norfolk (Va.)--Description and travel.
    • United States. Navy--Military life.
    • World War, 1914-1918--Censorship--United States.
    • World War, 1914-1918--Naval operations, American.
    • Brokenshire, John Roy, 1894-1940.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   6, World War I Small Collections  
    John Roy Brokenshire letters [series]
    Folders   23-24  
     June 7, 1917-November 25, 1917